There’s a mixed pot of feelings you experience when your eldest child stands at the cusps of independence, perched ready to take off into full-fledged adolescence.
On one hand, there’s relief. You can move on from the crucial first six years of childhood where you’ve survived bumbling through one of the steepest learning curves of your life.
On the other hand, its strangely nostalgic. That was you some 20 years ago. You can identify with this quest for identity and then suddenly not, because this brave new world has been swirling around you at a hurtling pace. You’ve known this journey, yet you can’t tell what’s ahead.
It is scary too, in many ways: to watch with baited breath, the uncovering of a shell that we as parents have constructed over her, unfold.
This same shield of good intentions that we have cloaked around her to protect her from the harsher realities of the outside universe, must soon be put to the test: Have we built the foundations right? Did we dig deep?
This releasing of one’s child into a bigger world that’s not your nest can be an intimidating experience for both child and parent. All too soon, she will be subject to the wider enclave of the unknown and unchartered- one that is governed by a different set of laws, risks and dangers.
Intimidating though it may be, it is a necessary rite of passage that every parent knows must be carried out, if not sooner then later: it will affirm your little one’s ability to survive and allow her to win her first fruits of independence and success that is apart from your warm nurturing grasp.
Just look at any creature of nature; perhaps the way a mother swallow releases her young for its first flight and watches from the side at how her baby gets tugged first by the weight of gravity, only to discover in mid-air relief, that its primal instinct to spread its wings will take it into its victoriously-sweet virgin ascent to freedom.
The gravitas of that moment hits home and is significant on its own. You pause for a moment to take stock and wonder if your child is resilient enough for these first few tests of Life.
Your heart skips nervously as you pray that the world won’t swallow her up, or chip at her self-esteem or dull her senses or coat her with the first clothes of cynicism that you’ve worn yourself advertedly or inadvertedly in your 30-something, weary, wary adulthood.
Obviously, you know the answer inside. Of course it will happen. Because that’s what happened to most of us. Until…Yes, until… we discovered that the wind that charted our course was not construed merely by this greater universe but by its Maker.
These were the winds of Grace and breath of Salvation that rescued us from the brevity of flitting aimlessly in this strange world and the condemnation of waiting for the next unexpected turn to crash into us or for the next ruthless predator to swoop in for a kill.
We can find shelter in the One who gave us the form not merely to survive but to soar and to live beyond our wildest dreams, and who whispers purpose and destiny into our feeble Spirits. The One also, who has the ability to still a raging tempest both within and out.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.
29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
And then, there is release…true release. Not just to anyone, but to the Father. Those fears, they are unfounded. Those worldly questions that have creeped into your mind on more than one occasion (“What school shall she go to?”, “How far can she go?”, ” What shall she eat?”, “What shall she wear?”) retreat and take on a sudden insignificance. You’re aligned to a broader vision and you look UP. You learn to let go and release your precious one onto the the wings of the Abba Father, to be carried by His Everlasting Arms.
This is the necessary ritual that every parent who understands the heart of the Father partakes in. In fact, this is the primary step that will make a marked difference in that child’s life- and yours as a parent:
When you will sacrifice that burden of human effort, relinquish self-imposed determinism and lay down parenting trophies at the altar, you will await to receive the immeasurable grace and richness of God’s great plan that will far surpass any human plan you have for that child.
Abraham did that for Isaac, the birds do that for their young and I will need to do that for my children. I need to follow Abraham up that mountain. And so I discover, as my child takes her first flight, that it is not so important what I do or what she does, but its more important what He will do, what He already does and what He’s already done.
It is a coming-of-age development for me as a mother, to invite and not fear the unknown, with its risks and its dangers, its knocks and occasional devastations, by just finding peace in His love and will. By trusting God with my children- to trust that God will see them through every obstacle, every hurt, every temptation, every failure, every imperfection, every blessing, every joy.
“Are you not much more valuable than they?” Indeed, we are. There is no doubt about that. Allow me to end with this poignant excerpt by Tim Keller in Counterfeit Gods:
“Abraham took that journey, and only after that could Abraham love Isaac well and wisely.
If Isaac had become the main hope and joy of Abraham’s life, his father would have either overdisciplined him (because he needed his son to be “perfect”) or underdisciplined him (because he couldnt bear his son’s displeasure or both. He would have overindulged him but also become overly angry and cruel, perhaps even violent, when his son disappointed him.
Why? Isaac’s love and success would have become Abraham’s identity and joy. He would have become inordinately angry, anxious and depressed if Isaac ever failed to love and obey him. And fail he would have, since no child can bear the full weight of godhood. Abraham’s expectations would have driven him away or twisted and disfigured his spirit.
Here then, is the practical answer to the “Isaacs” in our lives. We must offer them up. We need to find a way to keep from clutching them too tightly. We will never do so by mouthing abstractions about how great God is. We have to know, to be assured, that God so loves cherishes, and delights in us that we can rest our hearts in Him for our significance and security and handle anything that happens in life.
When the magnitude of what He did -by not withholding His One and Only Son on the cross of Calvary- dawns on us, it makes it possible finally to rest our hearts in him rather than in anything else.”